Basking in the moment (updated)

Rain falls here in the Capital Region (again) today, as across most of the state.
But, thanks to Linda Yankowski, a teaching assistant and member of the Hyde Park United Employees Association, it’s all sunshine here at NYSUT. At 10:06 Sunday night, Linda sent us this email:

I was one of those 10,000 that attended Saturday’s rally in Albany. Wow!! How inspiring!!

I’m curious about how we can get a copy of the song that Tom Chapin wrote about “parents, teachers, students, districts” standing together in “one voice” (PTSD, as Tom pointed out!). I don’t know how many people noticed, but as they sang that song, bits of blue sky started to peek from behind gray clouds. I took that as a symbol of hope — hope that we would win our fight to “get it right.” What an inspiration!!!

Hats off to NYSUT and all those who sponsored this event! I’ll be checking with my local regional office to see what else is planned for the near future.

That was one of many emails, phone calls, Facebook messages and tweets from folks following Saturday’s successful “One Voice United” rally in Albany.

Here’s another, complete with this picture

Photo by Stephanie Peacock of her son at the One Voice United rally.

“We loved the Albany rally for public education this weekend. I worked in an elementary school that closed last year and, this year, our home school has closed. I’m sending a picture of my son … our children are too small to fail. Thank you, Stephanie Peacock”

In this social media world, there have been amazing blog posts. Here’s a link to The Angel Forever’s post. Here’s my favorite passage from what Beth writes: I watched as teachers laughed at his “Not on the Test” song. The biting words in the song that I shared the other day really do say a lot. Then, he introduced a new song that he wrote. “One Voice” brought tears to my eyes. I watched as two of my sons’ teachers link arms to sway and sing together. I listened to my boys utter the words in unison with the giant crowd.”

Please comment below on of your your favorite blog posts.

Jean-Marie Vajda sent in this picture, along with her thanks for organizing the rally. (Folks, can I just mention here that after 20 years working with NYSUT, the only other times I have heard so many thanks expressed for the work the union has done are usually tied to disaster relief efforts after floods.) To all of you giving thanks, my humble opinion is Right back at ya, because this rally would only have been a speck if not for the huge participation from parents, teachers, students and community activists across this state. Huge kudos to those who rode on buses for 5 hours to get here.

Pauline Liu, in a column for the Middletown Times-Herald, writes today:

Last week, the state Education Department announced plans to expand its competitive grant program. It’s moving ahead with the program, known as Strengthening Teacher and Leader Effectiveness, even though it has received an underwhelming amount of participation since its inception last year.

The state will begin accepting applications for Round 2 in July. Similar to last year, about $49 million in grants will be up for grabs to qualifying school districts from October 2013 through June 2015. What remains to be seen is how many districts actually will apply. Out of about 700 districts statewide, Round 1 grants currently are being awarded to 47 districts. The amount totals $22.7 million, less than half of what was available. The lion’s share is going to Long Island districts.

Monticello was the only district in the mid-Hudson to be awarded a grant last year. The Sullivan County district is receiving nearly $400,000. It’s being used for several purposes, including teacher training.

Why must everything be a competition? It’s a question I’ve heard so many people ask. It’s a question that I’ve asked many times myself.

The grants are being made available, in part, from the federal Race to the Top competition, which has come under fire from many educators, administrators, policy analysts and politicians for running education in the wrong direction.

While some believe there’s merit to the goals of the program, many districts have spent far more to meet the teacher training requirements of the competition than they’ve actually won in grants.

The program has brought us the unfunded mandates known as the new Common Core curriculum, as well as the new teacher and principal evaluations.

They’ve resulted in what many say is an overemphasis on testing that has plenty of people outraged.

On Saturday, thousands took their call for education reform to Albany. Among them were 110 members of the Valley Central school community — complete with marching band.

Since most lawmakers were not working at the capital during the weekend, it’s not clear if the rally, sponsored by New York United Teachers, fell on deaf ears.

I sure hope their complaints were heard.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and some lawmakers have acknowledged the system is broken. Lawmakers have said it will take years to overhaul the antiquated system that serves 2.7 million kids statewide, including about 97,000 from the mid-Hudson.

To qualify for the latest round of competitive grants, districts must be needy. At least 25 percent of the students must come from low-income homes.

There actually are some cash-strapped districts that can’t even afford to hire grant writers and compete effectively for the money — raising questions about whether the grants are really going to those who need them most.

That is just one of the many examples of coverage of the rally to get the message out. Check out this blog post from my Communications Department colleague Carl Korn for more.

To answer Linda’s question, this should be a link that will bring your right to the part of the video where the new song “One Voice” debuts: (But if it takes you to the whole video, just go up to about the 1 hour 39 minute mark into the video.)

From all my colleagues here in NYSUT’s Communications Department, keep reading, commenting, tweeting, calling, etc., because it’s what we do.

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One Comment

  1. Bridget from BFLO June 10, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

    It was an inspiring Rally. I went as teacher of almost 30 yrs. and parent. I loved being with people who felt what was happening is wrong. Teachers back home are just giving up and doing as told although they know it is wrong. Please continue to fight our children, our future is worth it!

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